Surveying a surface…

 

We begin to write with a sense of urgency that what comes to us in words must be captured before it slips away. Later, after struggling with all that is required – necessary? – To transform, translate, re-form, recast…, make what we have taken down into something…. We turn leery, reluctant – Is this the place for a simple comma? A new clause? A new sentence? A statement in its own right? We become reluctant to launch anything new. So much as yet undone. Why keep adding to the pile?

Surely, or so we might wish, hope, pray for it to be true, another opening can be found? A place where writing is both simpler and truly – ah, what a concept this truth! – truly more complex?

I can only relate, or attempt to relate what may not translate, although I so much want it to…. I can only relate this to painting where we begin in enthusiasm and with a frisson of delight and terror at the way passages of brilliance appear at the tip of the brush only to be – as often as not – destroyed: by enthusiasm, greed, a wanting after more and more. This effort eventually wears us down. What have we destroyed? Eventually, if we get that far, we discover that what was created was not made by us. It happened to us. All we can take credit for is our impatience, our willingness to spade the good under with the bad.

This can lead to a paralysis that may only be relieved by an acknowledgement that the games we play while apportioning credit and blame exhaust us. There is no end to this exhaustion. No end to how exhaustive an inventory of ways to run off course, use ourselves up.

At some point, perhaps out of sheer persistence, certainly never arrived at without it, we find ourselves acclimated to the role of witness, to how acts of painting happen to us. They are not choices to be made in some contest to see if we can be right, or good, or however we may seek to use what happens to boost our sense of worth, merit, accomplishment…. Any accomplishment is never the result of a willful act. The true – there it is again! – nature of painting is discovered in a complex and layered act of witness.

So, how do we bring this to writing? The most obvious stumbling block is the visual immediacy of paint against the temporal linearity of writing. Though I suspect this is a cop-out. By the time a piece of writing has matured we know it inside out. It exists as a whole in some way at some depth of our conscious/subconscious relationship to it. Once we’ve lived and breathed it we have arrived at a kind of immediacy, no?

To refer back to painting, the resistance we feel towards giving ourselves into a collaboration that allows us to get out of our own way manifests itself as weariness. We consider it’s too much trouble to go on when what exhausts us is our insistence on maintaining the fiction that we actually control what happens.

Fragments. I keep returning to fragments. Everywhere I look, fragments. But what makes a painting whole comes about as we interact with fragmentation. Every manipulation of a painting’s surface fragments it. Until it doesn’t…. Acts of addition or subtraction…

We might say removal although nothing is ever taken away. The magic of paint lies in large part in the way it records and preserves every change. We struggle with this when we endeavor to make abrupt, brutal changes. We work with it when we understand that there can be no such thing. Whatever has happened on that surface will leave a trace. Painting lives in a layering of palimpsests.

Actions, things we do – we allow to happen – at certain points they turn on the lights. At a certain point they reveal, in a startling shift in how we see what is in front of us, a whole. Right there before our eyes. When this occurs we have reached a point, a place, of sufficiency. What had been fragmentary has been transformed into a whole. And, I should think a similar thing happens, can happen, while writing….

So, we have fragments. So what? This is the nature of work. Every action adds to the confusion until, again, if we can get out of the way, it no longer does. A whole is discovered, living and breathing in front of us.

What we have before us in this particular work, gentle reader, if you choose to enter, is such a journey. You see, a painting or a piece of writing can provide a bridge between its maker/witness and its viewer, reader/witness. No art exists fully without the completion of this circle.

Funny, Heisenberg had something similar to say about the world. David Bohm called this movement the explication of an Implicate Order…. Perhaps there is something to this that gives us a clue into a whole range of phenomena that appear to us as liveliness in a work of art….

This bridge joins us. And together, we may discover what there is to be found here.

*

We don’t have any problem being wrong. We just hate the discomfort of finding, being found out, that we have been mistaken. I only recently ran across this turn of phrase. It’s not only funny. It is so true.

My, how we keep stumbling upon this term, truth! A short definition? How about, that which turns us away from continuing along under an illusion?

This seems simple enough, when we’re talking about a straightforward, short-term run-in with a matter of life and death. Easy enough to agree that a statement like, “I should be able to put out a fire with any liquid, even gasoline!” might lead us into trouble. It’s only when there’s enough complexity in an issue for us to muddle cause and effect that we begin to wonder. But, isn’t this the point when it matters most?

Now, the kind of truths we’re getting at here can’t be chiseled into a set of rules. That’s been tried…. One possible truth worth ferreting out is whether this yearning after rules might just be another harmful illusion. No, what we want to work out is a way to get a nose for the real thing. A nose… we talk this way all the time. Bullshit is bullshit because it smells. What does truth smell like?

Well, we need experience with this question. There’s no other way to figure it out. And, maybe, just maybe, art is the place to do it. Maybe what we’re doing here is working our way through what’s in front of us so we can get a sense…, of how it smells?

Looked at in this way, it’s not just a simplistic search for closure or insisting that a story rings certain familiar bells. It might not even be about whether a piece is any good…. In the end, these points begin to look like they either don’t matter or, maybe, they’re not even true….

Maybe something even greater is at stake? What if…, and this is more than just a hypothetical question! What if the only way to nose out a new truth is to have our usual expectations thwarted and then still – in some way or form that may not reduce to a simple, straightforward answer – we find that all our fragments do hold together? Somehow….

 

 

Continue…

 

 

 

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